Three-person comedy to be dinner theatre production

Different people have different interpretations of what constitutes fine art, and those differences of opinion can be funny.

At least that's what playwright Yasmina Reza counted on when she penned "Art" a few years back. She must have been right.

Art, a comedy about three men with different tastes, has been keeping audiences laughing for several years and earned a Tony Award in 1998. Originally written in French, the play has been performed in more than 20 languages and is internationally acclaimed.

Wayland Baptist University's Theatre department will present the comic piece for its annual dinner theatre, planned April 19-20, 26-27 in Harral Auditorium. The event features a three-course meal and gourmet dessert, served at 6:30 p.m., followed by the play at 8 p.m.

According to director Marti Runnels, the play deals with a particular piece of artwork that begins a comic argument on what fine art really is.

"The play is about three men who are friends. One of them decides to buy a painting and spends $200,000 on it," Runnels said. "The whole play is about what that event does to the friendship and how it gets them to question the deeper aspects of their friendship."

Runnels said the three characters - and the men who play them - are what creates much of the comedy throughout the play.

First there's Mark, an aeronautical engineer who is more conservative in his art appreciation. Serge, a dermatologist and a modern art enthusiast, is the one who buys the painting - a piece with white lines on white canvas.

"Then there's Yvan, who cares less about art and more about having friends," Runnels said. "He's just trying to make everyone happy. He's a failure in business and in his relationships with women."

Though art is obviously a major theme throughout the play, Runnels said theatre guests won't have to be knowledgeable about visual arts to appreciate the piece. The play is also relatively short, running under 90 minutes.

Runnels said Reza was inspired to write the play after a friend of hers purchased a piece by Martin Barre. Her comic talent has won London's Laurence Olivier Award for best comedy and the Moliere Award for best author in Paris. Art also received The New York Drama Critic's Circle Award for best play and was nominated for best play by the Outer Critic's Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League. Runnels feels the Wayland production will receive such rave reviews as well.

Chris Moore, a senior who has been involved in every production since transferring two years ago, plays Mark. Cory Norman, another senior theatre veteran who recently starred in Wayland's production of The Elephant Man, plays Yvan. Serge is played by senior Patrick Whitfill, a relative newcomer to the Wayland stage.

Adult tickets for the production are $15, which includes the meal and the play, or $7 for the play only. Other ticket options and prices can be obtained and reservations made by calling the Box Office at 291-1089.

Because seating is limited, Runnels encourages early reservations for the dinner theatre. All reservations must be made by two days prior to each show. Tickets will not be available at the door for the dinner.